How Many Acts Can One Person Have?

Welcome to my Second Acts Series!

Today, we have Sister of Suspense author Marsha West sharing her multi-act life and her latest release, Act of Trust.

Here’s Marsha!

marshawest1Apparently quite a few. Since I write about Second Chances, I especially appreciate being here at Joanne’s blog about Second Acts. Inspiring stories are told here!

If college was Act 1 where I studied theatre, speech, and English preparing to be an English teacher, then Act 2 was the three years I taught before getting married.

Following marriage, Mommyhood began Act 3. When you’re a mom, whether you work outside the home or not, life is structured by where your kids are in school and their activities. These were the years of serving on PTA boards, attending gymnastics meets, dance recitals, football games, traveling to cheerleading competitions, and musical performances. They continued into the girls’ college years.

Act 3, Scene 1 is when I ran and got defeated, ran again and was elected for two 4-year terms to the Fort Worth ISD Board of Education. That was 12 years of my life from when I was 40 to 52. Including the four years before I first ran when I’d observed school board meetings as a member of the American Association of University Women (AAUW), I attended school board meetings twice a month for 16 years.

Ultimately, that Act closed. I reluctantly did not to run for reelection after the second term for financial reasons. Our kids were approaching college age and instead of spending my hours volunteering, (School Board members in Texas aren’t paid) I needed to go back to teaching. (I have people tell me they wish I still sat on the board—nice for my ego—but then I’d have missed so many other experiences.)

Act 4. I was fortunate to get a job teaching theatre in a neighboring school district, setting up a drama program where there had only been a music program. For the next 4 years I immersed myself in that life, teaching & producing one-act plays, musicals, and the UIL One-Act competition. It was wonderful to see the growth of my students from their freshman year through their senior year. Several went on to work in theatre and teaching.

My Acts get a bit blurry now. I was still on the school board and teaching theatre when I began to work on a mid-management degree leading toward becoming a school administrator. I’d seen a poster in the lounge about the program and thought, “hmmm.”

Act 5 began when I got a job with the FWISD as an elementary assistant principal. I spent three wonderful years working with an awesome principal. We were in a good school of about 500 students (mixed ethnically and economically) with an active PTA—even an active Dad’s Club. I learned a ton. I made mistakes, but that’s how we learn.

Act 6 began when I was “promoted” and became principal of Riverside Applied Learning Center, a great little special interest elementary school. I won’t take time to explain what an awesome opportunity it is for kids to be in this kind of school. Here’s a link to school’s website for a brief explanation of what Applied Learning is. http://www.fwisd.org/pages/FWISD/Departments_Programs/Departments__A-K_/Choices/Elementary_School_Programs___S/Riverside_Applied_Learning_Cen

Act 6 Scene 2 After five years at Riverside, I was assigned to a much larger school, almost 800 students. A school that ran through principals about every 2 years. It was a school in transition from being an almost all white middle class to being predominantly African American with a smattering of Hispanics with a high percentage of low-income kids and families. What had been working wasn’t working any longer. It was stressful for everyone. The pressure to perform well on all the tests was enormous.

I worked longer and longer hours, and it became clear to me that my health was suffering. No one should work 14-hour days plus 8 and 6 hour days every Saturday and Sunday, and that’s what I was doing my last year in that school. After two years there, I retired the end of June in 2007.

Act 7 I didn’t realize it at the time, but I’d already begun this act—The Writer.

My mother had some health problems and to deal with the stress I went back to reading romance novels. Something I hadn’t done in over twenty years. My goodness those books had changed! Sex was no longer behind the closed door. The suspense was off the charts, too.

I had an idea for a book, which at 145 K words, was a tad long. LOL Besides which I knew nothing about the craft of writing genre fiction. I just told the story. When contest judges said I had a good story, but needed to take classes on POV and GMC, I didn’t know what they meant. :) But I took their suggestions to heart and took classes, attended conferences, wrote, submitted, got rejected, wrote, sent to contests, got dreadful scores, took more classes, wrote, submitted, finalled in some contests, but got rejected. Continued to write. By the time I’d written my fourth book I was looking for small e-presses, and had decided if none of them wanted it, I’d self-publish.

Well, I got two offers and went with a small Canadian e-press. They published my first two books VERMONT ESCAPE and TRUTH BE TOLD. I learned about the publication business from them and now have self-published two books part of The Second Chances Series: SECOND ACT and ACT OF TRUST with plans for two more in the series.

Vermont Escape 200x300 (2)Truth Be Told 200x300(2)Second Act 200x300(2)

(Not a separate act, but an extension of Act 3 is grandparenthood, a lovely time for sure.)

FullSizeRender(2)Act 7, Scene 1 My husband and I are in the process of downsizing from our large house to a smaller one, but this cottage is on a lake 15 minutes from our daughters and grandkids. The views are inspiring and blood pressure lowering. We never anticipated this, but are incredibly grateful. (Lake Picture)

I’m not sure I planned a second or third act, much less a third or fourth. I just followed my husband’s advice: “Go through the open door.” When an opportunity presents itself, take it. When I decided to run for school board that first time, it was because the incumbent had decided not to run. I’d been talking about it for a couple of years, and it was put up or shut up time. I saw the sign on the teacher’s lounge bulletin board about the mid-management program and that propelled me in a new direction and through another door. I didn’t set out to have a career as an author. I just wrote that first book.

My personal motto is: “Keep on Keeping on.” If you want something, don’t give up, no matter how hard it is. There were so many times I nearly gave up on my writing, but I hung in there, and now I’m the proud author of 4 published books. I’m grateful to all the authors who helped me on this journey.

I discovered this next quote at the time I was leaving the school board. “In life, what sometimes appears to be an ending is really a new beginning.” After all these year, I still keep a copy of this one on my desk. The way I see it as long as you’re alive, you have new Acts ahead of you. Be a life-long learner and go through that open door.

Blurb for ACT OF TRUST, Book 2 The Second Chances Series

Act of Trust 200x300 (2)A widow since 9/11 and a mother of grown daughter, Kate Thompson wants to keep her and her daughter safe, but the inheritance of land in Maine pushes her out of her comfort zone in Texas and into the arms of a Maine lawyer.

Maine lawyer and environmentalist, Jim Donovan wants to protect Aunt Liddy’s land and keep it from falling into the hands of the developers, but first he has to convince Kate Thompson she should hold on to the family land when she doesn’t even want to go look at it. However, he’s unprepared for the attraction each feels for the other, but denies exists.

Will they be able to settle the land deal before anyone else is killed or they break each other’s hearts?

Buy Links

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | KOBO | Apple iTunes

Where to find Marsha…

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Newsletter Sign-up

Joanne here!

Marsha, I’m in awe of your accomplishments and wish you well with all your literary endeavors.


Inspiration Between the Lines

I’m thrilled to welcome Soul Mate author Linda Bradley to my blog. Today, Linda shares her favorite quotations and her debut novel, Maggie’s Way.

Here’s Linda!

lindabradleyphoto

It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.
Henry David Thoreau

This world is but a canvas to our imagination.
Henry David Thoreau

The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places.
Ernest Hemingway

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.
A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything?
For my part I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of the stars makes me dream.
I dream of painting and then I paint my dream.
Vincent Van Gogh
Me: I dream of words and I write them.

Write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open.
Stephen King

Sometimes you have to go on when you don’t feel like it, and sometimes you’re doing good work when it feels like all you’re managing is to shovel shit from a sitting position.
Stephen King

Some days you get the bear, other days the bear gets you
Proverb
Me: Dear Bear, Pride is righteous. Let’s not let it destroy the journey.

Set your course by the stars, not by the lights of every passing ship.
Omar Bradley

The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.
Jane Austen

To sit in the shade on a fine day and look upon verdure is the most perfect refreshment.
Jane Austen

Harry: I have never lied to you, I have always told you some version of the truth.
Erica Barry: The truth doesn’t have versions, okay?
Something’s Gotta Give (Jack Nicholson/Dianne Keaton)
Me: I’m with Erica on this.

Put blinders on to those things that conspire to hold you back, especially the ones in your own head.
Meryl Streep

maggiesway

Blurb

Middle-aged, Maggie Abernathy just wants to recuperate from cancer during the solitude of summer vacation after a tiresome year of teaching second grade. Maggie’s plans are foiled when precocious seven-year-old, Chloe McIntyre moves in next door with her dad, John. Maggie’s life changes in a way she could never imagine when the pesky new neighbors steal her heart. With Maggie’s grown son away, her ex-husband in the shadows, her meddling mother’s unannounced visits, and Chloe McIntyre on her heels, somehow Maggie’s empty house becomes home again.

Buy Links

Amazon | Barnes and Noble

Bio

Linda’s inspiration comes from her favorite authors and life itself. Her women’s fiction highlights characters that peel away outer layers of life to discover the heart of their dreams with some unexpected twists and turns along the way. Her writing integrates humor found in everyday situations, as well as touching moments that make readers connect with her characters. Maggie’s Way is her debut novel, in her Montana Bound Series. She is currently working on Maggie’s Fork in the Road and Maggie’s Montana.

Linda has an Associates Degree in Interior Design and a Master’s Degree in Reading and Language Arts with undergraduate work in Elementary Education and Fine Arts. She wrote and illustrated a children’s book titled, The Hunter for her Master’s Degree. Linda is a member of RWA, as well as the Greater Detroit Chapter of RWA.

Linda has two grown sons, lives with her husband, and rescue dog in Royal Oak, Michigan.

Where to find Linda…

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Interview with Romance Debuts

Leave a comment – you could win an e-book of Maggie’s Way.


#WeCanICan on #WorldCancerDay

sharinghands2Today is World Cancer Day, a global event designed to raise awareness and education about a disease that continues to affect a growing segment of the population. Currently, 8.2 million people die from cancer worldwide each year, out of which, 4 million die prematurely (aged 30 to 69 years).

While it may be too late to organize a major campaign, we can still get involved and support the fight against cancer.


Continue reading on the Sisters of Suspense blog.


A Different Kind of Groundhog Day Message

26852382_sEach year, I join in the fun and anticipation surrounding Groundhog Day, hoping Wiarton Willie (Ontario’s groundhog) will predict an early spring. A feeling that is shared by millions of Canadians and Americans who are also focusing on their respective groundhogs, among them Punxsutawney Phil, Shubenacadie Sam, Balzac Billy and Buckeye Chuck.

Last year, I came across a thought-provoking post about Groundhog Day on Editor Bob’s newsletter.


Here is Editor Bob’s evergreen post…

In NYC, we crave the luminous skies and warm weather which are still months away. I am recovering from the cabin fever. All is frozen outside but certainly not my heart.

As a curious explorer in school, I used to enjoy weather forecasting by observing the activity of a groundhog at Staten Island Zoo where on February 2, the groundhog comes out of the burrow all day and the ceremony is open for all.

As it looks at its own shadow it indicates the continuation of cold dry winters while if there is an umbrella of clouds, it stays outside predicting the arrival of spring. The behavior of this intelligent rodent helps in predicting the waning of winter or the onset of spring. I find this phenomenon fascinating.

Last evening as I was sitting with Fred, my retired, reformist friend, at the pub, he enlightened me with his perspective of the Groundhog Day which was rather unique and interesting. It gave me a new insight.

Fred said, “You know Bob this day reminds me of my lonely days, I emerged from my coldness only to find my own shadow which was as solitary as my pride, my seasons never changed till I transcended my attitude and eventually, I made great friends who enveloped me in love and warmth. More I open myself to camaraderie, the springtime of my life continues.”

The only prerequisite for long-lasting happiness is to stop walking in your own shadow. We are the weather prophets of our life. So pause and reflect, are you warm or cold today?


Featured in Renaissance Magazine

renaissancejanuaryI’m thrilled to be featured in this month’s salute to Creative Minds in Renaissance Magazine, a quarterly publication for RTO-ERO (Retired Teachers of Ontario) members.

You can read about my writing journey in “Revisiting the Dream” on Pages 30 and 31.

Download the magazine here.


Honoring Dr. Martin Luther King

martinlutherking

Today is Martin Luther King Day, an American federal holiday that marks the birthday of an inspirational clergyman, activist, and leader who is best known for his role in the advancement of civil rights in the United States.

My favorite quotations from Dr. Martin Luther King…

The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.

Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.

We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.

Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, “What are you doing for others?”

We must build dikes of courage to hold back the flood of fear.

Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into friend.

We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.

We may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now.

The time is always right to do what is right.


An Original Invention

Welcome to my Second Acts Series!

Today, we have The Tea Pixie sharing her inspiring journey.

theteapixie-hobby-art-and-jewelry-for-JG-January-2016 (2)

Reinvention is an interesting way of looking at life changes. It suggests we were invented. I am the result of everyone who came before me, and I am their original invention. If you keep this in mind as you read my Second Acts story, you will understand my life decisions.

First Act

My Mom graduated from high school when I was 12. When I graduated from high school, she graduated from a technical institute as a certified Laboratory Technician. Her courage to return to school in her thirties inspired me to study in university. I never envisioned my life beyond university, so when I graduated with a degree in communication and $11 dollars in my bank account, I raced to get employed at ANYTHING!

Within a year of graduating, I was a researcher in educational television, and within five years I was a supervising researcher. I was doing well-paid work that fit with my values, I felt that I was successfully serving my staff and the population that relied on the service we provided, and I really loved the people I worked with.

Trigger for Change

But working long hours in a luxurious office was only one of many stairs in the grand staircase that is my life. Having a child seems so biologically natural but with the introduction of contraception, having a family is now a basket full of choices, not only a choice between having children or not. I wanted to raise a child.

At age 32, I brought our amazing daughter into the world.

And then I left my job.

Second Act

It was not an easy decision, but I couldn’t see how I could be dedicated to my job and dedicated to raising our daughter – something would suffer. My husband’s response? “Two can live as cheap as one!” But we were three.

I left that job with tears in my eyes and began searching for alternative work. Many people work for themselves, even though statistics in Canada indicate that the average income of self employed people is less than $10,000 per year. I did not see myself as an entrepreneur…yet.

I began by voluntarily writing a communication plan (my first ever) for a local business and that document garnered me a part-time marketing manager position. My daughter would join me in meetings, happily munching away on Cheerios while I negotiated advertisements. I no longer had a work persona – what you saw was what you got.

Among myriad ways of making that business into a household name, I was publishing a quarterly newsletter and was surprised to learn that customers excitedly awaited each new publication.

People wanted to read what I was writing.

Boom. BOOM! And that is when I started to write, and write, and write. I took on book contracts, waiting until my daughter had fallen asleep and then writing on the computer in my storage room until 2am, getting up with her at 6am. Some days I was delirious because, as I discovered, I couldn’t survive with only four hours of sleep every night. Did I know what I was doing? Not a chance. I had never written a book before and wrote that first book outline based on a two-hour meeting on the 18th green of a golf course while drinking ciders. And I discovered that I loved working like that, unsure of what I was creating, but confident that I could figure it out.

Why was I confident? Because I had loads of failures and I survived them. One of the best of the worst failures was a book that got published with one line of complete gibberish in the middle of the book. Complete gibberish. On that project, I was the writer, the content and copy editor, and the publisher. I thought I was sunk. Instead, I was given an even bigger contract with the same organization – and became a book layout designer, as well.

And, art kept me sane through everything. When parenting was hard, I painted. When the work flow was unsatisfactory, I studied the flow of metals as I made jewelry. Doing art together was a wonderful way to connect with my daughter and provide her with the opportunity to explore her power and control. She also saw her Mom doing art as a normal part of life. Working with the unknown that is central to producing artistic pieces, just furthered my courage and my ability to face challenges.

Where Am I Now?

Eighteen years later, my daughter is in university, and I am working in research in women’s health, and continuing my life-training as a semi-precious metals jewelry designer and artist. Being a parent is a really, really hard job. I recommend it, wholeheartedly, as the most rewarding job I have had the good fortune to do.

I also recommend jumping into the unknown, even if the jump is small and the unknown seems insignificant. To get to the bigger jumps we need to learn that we can handle the smaller ones. But pave your own road – make your opportunities. When you realize that you have something (a product – a service – a skill) that people want, sell it. You might not know the “best” way to sell it, but there is no rule that says you have to do it the best way, you just have to do it.

Favorite Quotation

As Sue Monk Kidd says: “If you need something from somebody give that person a way to hand it to you.” My life choice was to invent my daughter. I made everything else happen to support that.

Joanne here!

Thanks for your insights and advice. Best of luck with all your creative endeavors.